K-State’s defense has been on a journey so far this season.
They went from a shrouded mystery of junior college transfers and new players in the preseason to a gigantic warning light after the first half of their game against Iowa State on Sept. 6. However, the tides turned after a much stronger performance against No. 5 Auburn and shutting down one of the most prolific rushing offenses’ in the country in UTEP.
“It’s exciting to see our preparation and our hard work pay off,” senior linebacker Jonathan Truman said of his defense’s recent success. “Then again, our defense is very level-headed and we have honest self assessment in ourselves and of the whole team. We’re just focused on taking the next step each week and each day and getting better.”
On Saturday, the Wildcats and their defense takes on a totally different offensive beast.
Texas Tech has maintained its reputation as a pass-first offense with an unending stream of pass-heavy quarterbacks. It’s a lineage that leads back farther than when current head coach and former Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury played for Tech in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
The fast passed, break-neck offensive style that Kingsbury perfect in Houston with Case Keenum and at Texas A&M; for Johnny Manziel’s certainly has its charms, but it also comes with it’s fair share of perils.
“It has its disadvantages and its advantages as well,” head coach Bill Snyder said in his Tuesday press conference. “From a defensive standpoint, the obvious thing is that you don’t have really have time to sit and process things as thoroughly as you might like to.”
However, the Wildcats are concerned with more than watching the Red Raiders throw balls over their heads all evening.
“You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” Snyder said. “Texas Tech runs the ball more than people would believe and some of those passes are really run plays when they put the guy in motion a pitch the ball forward like we’ve done with (Tyler) Lockett. That’s a completed pass and it’s more of a run play. So you’re looking in the vicinity of 60-to-40 pass to run (ratio) and that’s a pretty decent balance when you look at it that way.”
The more balanced attack plays into the cards of K-State’s up-and-coming rush defense.
They held UTEP running back Aaron Jones, a top 10 rusher in the country, to a mere 47 yards rushing. They also held Auburn, hailed as one of the top offensive teams in the country, to 128 yards rushing on Sept. 18.
It’s those numbers that have helped K-State gain a nationwide reputation that has led to a No. 23 ranking in this week’s AP poll.
“Our coaches do a great job with our game plans,” Truman said of his defensive unit. “The guys out there on defense take great pride in their preparation. When you have a bunch of guys that care about each other and want to make plays for each other, then we’re going to do a great job.”
The fruits of this defense’s labor provides more than just a strong on-field performance. The strength of this defense has also translated into a high level of competition in practice.
“That helps us,” senior quarterback Jake Waters said of his defensive teammates’ prowess that came from its performance against Auburn and intensity in practice. “That helps our receivers, that helps our linemen; it helps everything. You want to go against the best to get better and that’s the best way to get better. We use every day in practice as a opportunity to do that.”